Those who yearn for war in Libya

The unprecedented attack on Libyan foreign minister Manqoush confirms there are those inside Libya who do not want to deal with the new reality created by the UN roadmap.
Thursday 29/04/2021
Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives his Egyptian counterpart Mostafa Madbouly in the capital Tripoli on April 20, 2021. (AFP)
Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives his Egyptian counterpart Mostafa Madbouly in the capital Tripoli on April 20, 2021. (AFP)

There are many who want a new war in Libya.

Among them there those who do not want the elections to be held as scheduled on December 24.

There are also those who are looking for justifications to keep the Turkish forces and mercenaries in the country, and those who reject, not only the presence of Field Marshal Haftar as the head of the army, but the very existence of a national army.

They want to substitute for the army a national guard that would simply protect the borders and facilities and not interfere with the  warlords, smuggling barons, terrorist groups and those involved in corruption and plundering of public money and the thieves of oil and budget allocations.

Despite all the talk about the political agreement that was reached and the optimism about the arrival of the new authorities elected by the Forum for Political Dialogue, and despite the Geneva agreement, the efforts of the Joint Military Committee, UN Security Council decisions and the regional and international agreements, despite of all of that, the security situation in Libya remains fragile and the final ceasefire decision could be breached any time. This is especially true thanks to the absence of an effective decision to unify the military establishment, achieve reconciliation, implement a general amnesty, release detainees as well as the prisoners of war, and return the displaced.

Psychological and social barriers and hate speech have not diminished in intensity. There seem to be no takers of the domestic and external calls to turn the pages on the past, so that the process of political settlement can move ahead.

On Monday, a cabinet meeting was scheduled in Benghazi, under the chairmanship of the head of Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and in the presence of the President of the Presidency Council, Muhammad al-Menfi and his deputy from the Tripoli region, Abdullah al-Lafi.

But at the last moment, the meeting was postponed to an unspecified date. This was not just due to the arrival of a plane at Benina airport carrying dozens of armed militiamen who were sent to ensure the security of Dbeibeh and his ministers.

These militiamen were sent despite the fact that the authorities of the eastern region had managed in past weeks to protect the visits of other senior GNU officials, including of Menfi, during his visit to Benghazi and during Dbeibeh’s own visit to Tobruk.

It is what Dbeibeh said when he spoke to a number of displaced persons from the east of the country who were sitting in a Tripoli café. He told them that Benghazi will return to the fold of the homeland.

Some explained that he meant to say that the city had been kidnapped by the army. The real reason is the lack of a genuine awareness that the solution must entail mutual recognition between all the main actors on stage.

When he met the field leaders in Tripoli and the warlords in Misrata, Debeibeh should have set a date for meeting with Field Marshal Haftar. He is the commander-in-chief of the military force that controls the entire eastern and southern regions and a big part of the central region.  Dbeibeh should have sought that meeting especially since Haftar has played an important role in the political agreement reached at the Dialogue Forum, in its Tunisian and Swiss meetings, as testified by former UNSMIL chief Stephanie Williams herself. But Dbeibeh’s going to Benghazi without setting a date for a meeting with Haftar, deprived the visit of its meaning and indeed, undermined it altogether.

When Dbeibeh began to form his cabinet, he stipulated that the candidates should be able to work in all parts of the country without exception, but he was eventually unable to hold a meeting of his government in Benghazi. He was in fact forced to postpone it.

This raises an important question: How will he succeed in his mandate as head of government  over all of Libya’s territory if he is not supported by the army leadership in the east of the country, which had provided him with an adequate security framework to obtain the confidence of Parliament in the city of Sirte, a location controlled by Haftar’s forces?

How will he obtain this support if he does not acknowledge that leadership? What prevents him from meeting with Haftar if he recognises it?

This is not the only issue.

A few days ago, Foreign Minister Najla Al-Manqoush spoke during a speech before the Italian Parliament about the necessity for all foreign forces and mercenaries to leave the country.

Similar views were previously expressed at the UN Security Council, the Arab League, the European and African Unions,  by the US government and most Western capitals and Arab countries.

A regional and international consensus was reached about this.

However, the forces of political Islam and the Turkish pressure group in Libya and abroad launched hostile campaigns directed against the minister.

The campaign reached the point of levelling accusations of treason and apostasy. The reason for this was that she did not exclude the Turkish intervention in her call for foreign forces to leave, as if the Turk’s presence had become an inevitable fate or a sacred issue beyond reproach.

It also meant that there are still people betting on war and on the continuation of divisions, especially within the military establishment. That institution will not move towards unification as long as there are foreign fighters who support this or that party.

The unprecedented attack on Manqoush confirmed that there are those inside Libya who do not want to deal with the new reality created by the UN roadmap, nor with international developments, including the Security Council resolution announced on April 15, under Chapter Seven, which means possible international intervention. There is no realisation of the scope of the transformations in the region and the world.

There are those who want to remain under the protection of the Turkish forces and mercenaries, which means that they reject the stance of their country’s diplomacy in line with international positions in support of the choice of peace. It seems they desire war if they are not actually preparing for it.

The conflict has not ended in Libya, especially since there are parties that do not realise that the battle for peace is more difficult than the conflict, and this is why they made the cease-fire a starting point for a cold war that may turn hot on the ground at any moment.

Some still yearn for divisions. These are members of the Muslim Brotherhood who believe that Libya cannot accommodate them together with the army and Haftar. They believe reconciliation may inhibit them from continuing their policy of Islamist empowerment.

These are also the regional leaders who speak with the logic of superiority and the legitimacy of controlling the country, the warlords who are not able to relinquish their interests, and the opportunists who do not want the state to take root nor for sovereignty to be established nor society to rise above the strife which has torn it apart for ten years.

Libya today needs a discourse of reason to prevail before the country is totally shattered. It needs a spirit of positive adventure to preempt the designs of those seeking to sabotage the political process, opposing those who would like to overcome pain and wounds and turn over the page of the past and advance instead the logic of a peace of the brave in order to roll back the legacy of war and conflict.

People should not listen to the Brotherhood’s narrative which favours a political solution only if it serves the group’s interests and achieves its goals.

And if they do not reach their goals, Brotherhood members would be willing to obstruct the settlement even if that leads to the fragmentation of the country. For them a small region under their control is better than a vast country outside of their influence.